It’s safe to say that eight months ago, no one could have predicted what 2020 had in store, both in terms of the macroeconomic climate and the digital advertising industry. Mere months into the year we were faced with a global pandemic and worsening recession. What’s more, the impending deprecation of third-party cookies and increasing restrictions on device-based identifiers, like Apple’s Identity for Advertisers (IDFA), have compounded to make 2020 a truly unprecedented year.
These changes—however uncomfortable—usher in an opportunity to reestablish the digital advertising ecosystem with trust at the center. The future of the open internet depends on it.
Replicating success: identity & addressability checklist
Echoing this sentiment, we have recently had thousands of conversations with leading brands, agencies, platforms, and publishers. In speaking with these early adopters and thought leaders, we often heard that there is no silver bullet to success when it comes to identity and addressability solutions. However, they typically all agreed that the following five criteria are critical.
1. Neutral, open, and interoperable
There are many examples of biased companies taking advantage of their customers, so ask yourself if the solution is unbiased and independent of media-buying platforms. Would you trust the person selling you a house to also perform an accurate home inspection? Of course not, and for good reason. Remember the airline reservations system that prioritized its airline ownership above lower fares? Or the ad exchange that filled their own inventory first? Why open the door to bad behavior when it’s so easy to simply demand that your solution is unbiased, independent, and solely devoted to providing you the best result?
In addition, most marketers don’t just use one monolithic supplier, nor do most publishers want to rely on a single monolithic demand solution. Ensure that your identity strategies easily map between platforms as needed. Choosing an identity solution that is beholden to a specific player in media may limit your flexibility.
The last thing we want is to replace one walled garden with another. Generally, a good litmus test is to see if the solution has supporting infrastructure that is widely adopted by publishers and industry platforms (both demand- and server-side). Importantly, as identity continues to fragment, any solution you choose needs to be interoperable with other identity solutions. This interoperability is imperative to long-term success.
2. Consumer-first, privacy-centric
Part of the problem with the legacy of third-party cookies is that we did a poor job of explaining the value exchange with consumers. In order to rebuild trust, we must prioritize solutions that put the consumer first. They must be based on first-party consent, provide a clear opt-out framework, and enable regulatory compliance. It’s essential that solutions support permissible use, auditing, and redactions, as well as diverse global regulatory environments. This may seem like obvious advice, but we worry that less sophisticated customers may fall victim to new, less ethical providers. Our counsel: steer clear of discredited alternatives like fingerprinting—where individuals cannot see or control how their data is used—and unproven technologies that may be poorly capitalized, one-dimensional, or ill-suited for scalability. These “solutions” sound too good to be true because they are, and they have no place in our future.
3. People-based and omnichannel
Choose a solution that spans all of your marketing tactics and can go beyond programmatic targeting to support a wide variety of data use cases and applications. Remember that the world is far bigger than third-party cookies and programmatic display advertisers. Tactics like television, direct mail, point-of-sale personalization, search, and e-mail are important, and must all work together to optimize your customer experience and business results.
Further, portability is essential to enable bidding, analytics, and availability of data for a variety of advanced customer experience applications. Take a large retailer, for example. In order to deliver premium, preferred experiences to their customers and compete with the likes of walled gardens, they must unify their approach to identity and addressability across online and offline channels. Whether they’re interacting with consumers in store via point-of-sale, digitally on their website or mobile-app, or even through their call centers, every touch point and every engagement needs to be cohesive, personalized, and precise. The stakes are high, and without identity and addressability at the core of their strategy, they risk losing customers.
4. Global and scaled
Global brands require global solutions. Given the current cost pressures most major brands face and the wide variety of regulatory environments, it is more important than ever for marketers to choose a global solution that can adapt and reach a variety of audiences and touch points. The solution should evolve along with your business to ensure you’re reaching target audiences, especially as your business grows. If the solutions you implement can’t deliver vast reach across addressable audiences, it likely isn’t the right or best solution out there.
It’s critical that publishers and advertisers connect in a way that preserves and protects data security. To that end, the solution should enable tokenized identity for publishers. Only trusted partners can then decode the token to people-based identity, but even that’s not enough. Once decoded, each platform should have a specific encrypted identity, ensuring that consumer identity cannot be reidentified at any point. If a breach occurs, it affects only one platform—not the entire ecosystem. Further, buy- and sell-side platforms must be able to transact without compromising pseudonymity.
Consumer data requires protection. Publishers become the stewards of this data through first-party authentications and must only use solutions that protect data privacy and its value to the publisher. Advertisers should ensure configurability and flexibility so they can control their data flows while also recognizing that different data sets have different standards of sensitivity.
Again, beware of companies that hawk seemingly simple, standard approaches to security, as simplicity often means greater susceptibility to hacking. This is particularly true of simple hashed emails, which should be avoided as they are fraught with weak points that can expose you—and your end user—to unnecessary risk.
Where we’re going
While our future as an industry remains somewhat uncertain, there is an emerging bright spot: the headwinds we face today have been a forcing function for real, meaningful change. These are changes that needed to happen in order for us to continue to provide individuals with valuable, memorable content and experiences without compromise.
So while we may not be able to predict when we will be able to safely greet colleagues and peers from closer than six feet apart, or when advertising dollars will return to pre-pandemic levels, we do know this: customer-first identity and addressability are not just one way of approaching the future of advertising, they are the only way.
Take a look at our latest case study with Fitbit to see how the leading health and fitness technology brand leveraged LiveRamp’s Authenticated Identity Infrastructure to reach and measure high-value audiences without cookies. If you’re a publisher/platform looking to integrate, reach out to ATS@liveramp.com.